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HI! Kumusta? I am Hazel Pagulayan and I have been stuck on Earth for 27 years. I am a College Instructor teaching Philippine Literature and Communications. I am trying to get back on track with writing poems and short stories. During my free time, I like to explore the depths of dystopian literature, binge on some Netflix series, admire the curves of the Cordillera mountains, and travel with friends.
I made mistakes and bad choices. I made poor decisions in life. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and reverse my actions. I have been stubborn, selfish, hard-headed, indecisive. I took so many risks without considering the risks at all. I love too much and fall so hard. I do my best at work and get so little in return. I trust so much and get hurt too often. I enjoy the company of others and the comfort of solitude. I make my friends smile and laugh yet I can't even make myself happy. I can give hard-core advice but I can't even solve my own dilemmas. I am a living irony. My world is my stage. And it seems like everyone's enjoying the show. Except me. Maybe in my next lifetime, I'll be the woman that I dreamed to be. Maybe I'll find closure to all the hanging questions in my head. Maybe. For now, I'll just live in irony.
I am so preoccupied with fixing people. I ask so many questions, get to know them personally, give them advice. I am always a call and chat away when they need me. I love making them smile and laugh and just forget the burden on their shoulders or the pains in their hearts. I listen to their angst. I tolerate their pranks. And that is okay. I am always okay. Because I wanted them to know that there's someone out there who listens and understands. Turns out I do the things I do because I also want to be treated like that. Because I needed to be fixed too.
As a kid, I often dream of beautiful things that might happen to me when I grow up. I always thought, as long as I put everything I have on anything I do, I will definitely get it. Headstrong. Always. That is one thing I learned from a television show back in the 90s in the Philippines. It was called Hiraya Manawari. These were ancient Filipino words that are used to describe a feeling of hopefulness that something might come true. Back then, I really did not know what the title means until recently when some episodes resurfaced on Facebook. March 16, 2020 was a very memorable day for every Filipino in my country, specifically in the country's capital and nearby cities and provinces. It was when our President asked to cut office hours and have everyone reach home before 5 p.m. Public transportation will be cut. Police will be roving the areas to make sure that everyone will be in their homes at 5 o'clock. The Luzon Island will be put into a total lockdown for a few weeks. I really don't have a picture of how big of a deal this situation was. All I know was that there are around 140 people in the Philippines who were infected. I thought, well there are 109 million Filipinos right now and 140 is just a needle in a haystack. My colleague told me that the office will be closed at 2 in the afternoon, which was a bit of a late notice since I am already outside, waiting for a Jeepney. I just went to Starbucks, ordered a dark caramel frappuccino and chocolate cake, and sat on the corner. I was watching a Big Bang Theory episode where Raj sneezed, and Sheldon wanted him to explain his sneeze. I laughed because it was so relatable. if a person sneezed in front of me at that time, I would bathe in Purell. I was silently laughing in my corner when a barista approached me saying that the store will be closed at 3 p.m. I asked him why and he said that it was in the news. Everyone should be at home by 5 p.m. I still have 30 minutes to spare so I just finished the episode and went out. I was surprised to see the traffic jam right in front of me. I mean, I lived in this city half my life and this is the first time I saw this long line of cars at 3 p.m. I thought that would be the only surprise for the day. I walked to the grocery store to buy food good for at least two weeks. If the total lockdown will be placed, I must get supplies. When I entered the grocery store, it looked like a scene in an apocalypse. People are clamoring, most shelves were empty, and I saw the longest grocery line I have ever seen in my entire life. At this moment, I understood the gravity of it. I felt a bit scared. This virus is a threat. I grabbed my supplies and waited in line for almost an hour. When I went home, I told my family what I saw. They felt scared too. Days turned to weeks; weeks turned to months. We have been in our homes for almost three months when the government gradually opened some industries to operate to sustain the necessities and the economy. As a person who often travels, the quarantine took a toll on me. For weeks I longed for the life I had four months ago. I miss laughing with my friends, the random night drives, the mountains of Cordillera, the smiles of my students… As weird as it is, I also miss the things that made me annoyed four months ago: the traffic in the metro, the daily commute, the noise of my students in the class. I want to do a lot of things. Headstrong, as always, but I can't. I cannot go to my favorite writing spot. I cannot teach in the classroom. I cannot hang out with friends nor hug them because Zoom Meetings aren't always enough. This pandemic is real. It shook our world entirely. This was not a part of the beautiful things I have dreamed of when I was a kid, but I know it is not always rainbows and butterflies. Life is not always like the shows I had watched as a kid. This pandemic will be over. The global crisis will be solved. Our worries will be resolved. We will be back on track. Hiraya manawari.